I know I promised to not indulge in shameless product plugging on this blog many months ago, but I’ve decided that it’s important to discuss how Apple’s iPod – arguably the best MP3 player out there – has had such a profound influence on popular culture these days.

Case in point: the U.K. military denied reports today that it has banned iPods out of fear of sensitive data being stolen from the Ministry of Defense. Because iPods can essentially double as an external hard drive due to their remarkable ease of use and quick file transfer capabilities, this could be perceived by some as a potential problem in data spying and stealing secret government information.

Why is this important? Because it shows how the iPod has become such a big deal, such an important device to so many people, that it is now a concern for one of the pillars of government.

The whole culture of iPods is huge. So huge, in fact, that numerous web sites have popped up in the last two years supporting the iPod (check out iPod Lounge for the best information on how to work your pod) and detractors (iPod’s Dirty Secret – good site, funny, makes some important points on the limitations of the device).

The hype over a small yet stylish MP3 player may seem to outsiders like self-indulgent consumerism. No doubt, they’re probably right on some level. But no other digital product has had the impact of the iPod, given how many songs the device can hold (3,700 songs on *one* iPod is a lot of music) and how it has changed much of how we perceive computers (it’s changed Apple’s position on computers, given that the company now devotes an entire R & D sector towards the iPod).

This revolution is only really just beginning: the iPod Mini is being released in Canada this month (1,000 songs on the player but for many people that’s more than enough) and the so-called 4th Generation iPod – an MP3 player that doubles as a video terminal with the ability to watch MPEG files and, potentially, have Wi-Fi capabilities on top of the thousands of songs you can carry – is due out later this year. The market for iPods has exploded this year, with more than a million units sold in the first six months of 2004.

The iPod’s rise to power in the music industry is a clear sign to the record labels that the compact disc’s days are numbered. Whether it be legal downloading from Puretracks or the forthcoming Apple iTunes Canada site or ripping old compact discs into digital MP3 files, the promise of a digital music revolution has been given a major hoost with the mobility and flexibility of the iPod.


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